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Atlanta Symphony Orchestra well received in Clayton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Performing Arts Center (PAC) Coordinator Anita Lloyd, on Monday, was already looking for future dates to bring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra back to the county - three days after the orchestra performed five selections in front of 1,400 patrons at the center.

The full Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a free concert Friday, as part of a sample concert program designed to provide a taste of the symphony orchestra. The turnout nearly filled the 1,800-seat venue.

The group is scheduled to have its 15-member chamber orchestra perform at the Performing Arts Center on Feb. 4, 2010, in a program designed to educate children about music. Lloyd said she is hoping to schedule a return of the full orchestra to Clayton County to take place a year from now.

"We want the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra back ... because there was such an outpouring of community support for the arts with this concert," Lloyd said. "It was one of our more successful events."

John Sparrow, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's vice-president of orchestra initiatives and general manager, said the concert held on Friday was a method of allowing people across the Southern Crescent to "test drive" the orchestra.

Sparrow said the purpose of the sample concert was also to let people hear pieces that the orchestra will perform during the 2009-2010 season at its traditional homes at the Woodruff Arts Center's Symphony Hall in Atlanta, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, and the Delta Classic Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta.

He said the performance at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center was the first sample concert held outside the Woodruff Arts Center, though the orchestra may go out to different venues and do more sample concerts next summer.

"We try to seek out places where there seems to be an interest in having the orchestra perform, and where would we like to build interest in it among the community," Sparrow said in a telephone interview Monday. "It's a way to spread the word about the orchestra."

The symphony orchestra performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Overture to La Clemenza di Tito," the first movement from Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5," the third movement from Antonín Dvorák's "Symphony No. 8," excerpts from Sergey Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," and the third movement from Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 6." The symphony orchestra was under the direction of Conductor Mei-Ann Chen, according to the program.

"I thought the musical selections were great," said Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin. "I also liked the fact that, between selections, they shared information about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra ... I thought it was a great way to introduce the orchestra to the community."

Another concert attendee, Michael Twomey, president and executive director of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, said he, too, liked the selections, but was also impressed by the acoustics. "I'd been to a few performances there in the past, but I didn't realize how good the acoustics were," Twomey said.

Lloyd said a professional orchestra shell, which the Clayton County school system has owned for 19 years, was set up on the Performing Arts Center's stage so the acoustics would better match that of venues like the Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center.

Twomey, a Morrow resident who said he used to get season tickets for the symphony orchestra and still attends two performances per season, said he liked the convenience of attending a performance that was close to home. "It's nice to be able to get everything together, and go to a concert, and then not have to schlep all the way back home afterwards," Twomey said.

Lloyd said the audience gave a two-minute standing ovation for the symphony orchestra at the end of the concert. "She [Conductor Chen] had to come back on stage and take a bow three times," Lloyd said.

If the full Atlanta Symphony Orchestra does return a year from now, it will be part of an increasingly crowded schedule for the Performing Arts Center. Lloyd said she is already booking events for 2011, because only a handful of weekday and weekend slots in 2010 are not already booked.

"We were thrilled that they were here, and I'm going to ask them to join us for our 20th anniversary celebration for the PAC next year," Lloyd said.

Among the events scheduled to take place at the Performing Arts Center in the coming months are a doo wop concert, featuring Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, the Cleftones and Eddie Holman, on Oct. 17; a performance by the Georgia Music Educators Association's statewide Elementary Honor Chorus on Nov. 7, and a performance of "The Nutcracker" by the Atlanta Festival Ballet on Dec. 1.

In January, the school system's all-county honor musical performance of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will take place at the Performing Arts Center.

Lloyd said the growing demand of outside groups to use the Performing Arts Center is due to her talking to representatives from performing arts companies at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters every January in New York City, as well as advertising for the center that is put in magazines that go out to members of the performing arts community.

"Every year, our rentals increase," Lloyd said. "Right now, we are more booked than ever before."

Twomey said getting groups like the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to give a concert at the Performing Arts Center, and having a large turnout for the event, should help the facility get high profile events in the future.

"It proves there are people down here who have an interest in the arts," Twomey said. "I would say the only drawback to the PAC is they cannot serve any alcohol there ... but, by getting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to perform there, that certainly gives credence to that facility."